Last summer, after faithfully logging my calories (most of the time) and exercising regularly (most of the time) for about six months, I was pretty damn happy with my results. I looked pretty good, I felt pretty good, and while I wasn’t as lean as I’d been a few years back, I knew that being that lean took a lot of work and dedication, and that the benefits of being leaner weren’t really all that great. Wearing a size smaller didn’t make me feel any better, physically or emotionally. I still saw just as many flaws and problem areas when I looked in the mirror. I still had to scoop cat shit out of the cat box. I still had to pay my bills every month. The sky wasn’t any bluer and the clouds were no fluffier. The only difference was that the tag inside my jeans – that no one saw but me – was a smaller number.
So, rather than continue to push towards a goal that really didn’t matter, I gave up. I don’t mean that I got so burnt out by logging and exercising that I said, “Fuck it,” became a couch potato, and ate a bag of Butterfingers a day. I just eased back a bit. I stopped logging my food. After doing it off and on for five years, I should have a pretty decent idea of what to eat. I stopped weighing and measuring myself. I ran a little less, especially after I bunged up my Achilles and had to rest for a few weeks. But the biggest thing I gave up was pressure on myself.
So, about 8-9 months later, what’s the result of giving up? This.
I’m closer to my “goal body” now than I was when I was trying so hard to get there.
I’m still not even sure I want to be as lean as the 2012 pic again. But I’m taking an attitude of “if it happens, it happens.” I’m not going to push myself too hard, I’m not going to weigh and log every bite of food that goes in my mouth, I’m not going to weigh and measure myself. I’m not going to give up chocolate and cookies and other goodies. I’m just going to continue to eat mostly whole foods and move my body in ways that feel good.
I keep this picture of myself on my desk. It’s from 1979, in my kiddie pool in the back yard. I was a skinny kid, and even then, my thighs touched. They always touched. They’re always going to touch. It’s just the way I’m built.
For someone else, a thigh gap is a perfectly natural and beautiful thing, but striving for one, when my body is designed otherwise, would be like striving make my feet a size 6 instead of a size 9. Not gonna happen. It’s nothing I ever worked to have, although I do sometimes wish my legs were smaller. That in itself is pretty silly… my legs look the way they look because of what they need to do. When I did have skinny legs, they were that couldn’t run and knees that popped out of joint if I squatted too low. If I want legs that can lift heavy weights and propel my body up steep hills, I need ones with more muscle.
This picture is also a reminder that there was a time when I didn’t think about my body, when how I looked didn’t matter to me, when I wasn’t self-conscious about my bum or my legs or my boobs. The only gap I was concerned with then was the giant one where my front teeth had been, and even that didn’t bother me.
There is no after. That’s what I’ve learned. The only “after” will be once I’m dead. Until then, it’s all just during.
This photo shows the last five years of my life at different weights and sizes. There’s times I’ve had more motivation. Times I had less. Times I felt fantastic. Times I hurt. Times I weighed less. Times I weighed more. Times I didn’t give a flying fuck. Times I cared too much.
In other words: Life happened.
Honestly, I loved how I looked and felt in November 2012, and I’m working towards looking and feeling that way again. But sometimes, it’s just not a priority. And that’s okay. If I were a personal trainer or a fitness model, then it would be a higher priority. But I’m not. And I’m perfectly content where I am. My life does not improve in any major way if my body fat percentage is a little lower, if I can run a little faster, if I can lift a little heavier, if I wear a smaller clothing style. It really just doesn’t matter if I’m fairly fit or super fit.
Some in the fitness industry would like to call someone like me a failure, because I’m not constantly improving or even trying to. Say I’m just making excuses or I’m not focused or determined enough. Screw ’em. I don’t say they’re failures if they can’t, won’t or don’t do other things I do. I’ve never said, “I re-tiled my kitchen floor, repaired my broken dryer, dishwasher and stove, and installed drywall by myself… what’s YOUR excuse?” How ridiculous would that be?! I love to read, I’ve tamed feral cats and literally taught an old dog new tricks, I’m a pretty damn good artist and an obsessive bargain hunter… if someone else doesn’t do those things, does that make them failures, unfocused or not determined? No. That means they have other interests. And so do I. And so do you.